How Much ‘Anal Cleft’ Can a Bikini Barista Show?

Hillbilly Hotties Coffee Company is in a legal battle with a city in Washington over a dress code policy they feel violates their employees’ civil rights.  

By Jessie Schiewe

For now until the undetermined future, you can order a hot steaming cup of coffee from a scantily clad bikini barista at Hillbilly Hotties in Everett, Washington. If the company’s social media photos are anything to judge by, their employees come to work wearing everything from fishnet body stockings to g-strings and pasties.

Hillbilly Hotties Coffee Company is part of a growing number of roadside coffee stands staffed by women in various stages of undress that have been popping up across the U.S. since the early aughts. They originated in Washington state and have spread gradually southward, taking root in cities throughout California and Oregon, as well as in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Colorado, North Carolina, and Maryland.  

These coffee stands are usually small in size, housed inside of brightly painted wooden sheds that have been plopped on the edges of parking lots and strip malls. Some are drive-throughs, others can only be accessed on-foot. Orders are placed and picked-up through windows that give the customer a full-view of the shed’s interior — including its staff.

The women who steam the milk and pour the espresso shots at these establishments are colloquially known as “bikini baristas” but they don’t just stick to wearing swimwear. They also dabble in lingerie, harnesses, bodysuits, extra-short pleated skirts, and the occasional band-aid or strip of duct tape. At the drive-through coffee shops I’ve visited, the baristas wore flesh-colored soft-cup bras and plain cotton underwear.

Employees at Hillbilly Hotties can dress pretty much however they want. There are no rules, except no full-nudity and no visible nipples.

“There is no uniform,” Hillbilly Hotties owner Jovanna Edge told OK Whatever in an email. “We believe in freedom of choice. Want to wear a bathrobe to work? Do it!”

But this lax uniform policy might soon change. Since August 2017, Hillbilly Hotties has been embroiled in a fight with the City over proper dress codes for their employees. Namely, how much “anal cleft” can be shown while at work. That’s right: anal cleft.

“It’s pretty ridiculous,” Edge wrote to us in a Facebook message when we first contacted her for an interview. Later, she sent us an email with more thoughts about the inclusion of the humorous phrase in the “bikini barista” lawsuit.

“We are still unsure what exactly is the anal cleft. A federal judge couldn’t even say for sure. It’s legally undefined. But we think it was a low level bureaucrat late at night trying to be clever in drafting this absurd law.”

“Anal cleft” entered the picture when it was included in a city ordinance that restricts what employees at fast food restaurants, food trucks, and coffee stands can wear. It requires that the “bottom one-half of the anal cleft” be covered, the Herald Net reported, and that employees wear at least a tank top and shorts.  

With their anything-goes dress code, Hillbilly Hotties was an obvious target once the ordinance passed. But Edge was smart. She hired a constitutional law team that served the City of Everett “not even 3 days” after the ordinance had passed. The coffee company argued that controlling how little or how much clothing certain restaurant employees can wear was a violation of their civil rights.

“What these baristas wear shows their unique and individual tastes, their personas, their stories within,” Edge said. “These empowered women make a choice everyday they go to work. Their body is their canvas.”

The courts have so far agreed. Fox News reports that U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman banned the uniform policy, believing that it impinged upon the bikini baristas’ First and 14th Amendment rights since it targets only women. But the ban is only temporary as the case is ongoing. Edge said she’s now for the 9th Circuit to rule on the appeal. “Now it’s up to the judges to hopefully throw this appeal case out of court and affirm Judge Pechman’s ruling.”

Hillbilly Hotties’ logo is the silhouette of a cowgirl and the walls of its Everett stand are painted a bright, hot pink. Less than two years ago, prior to the city’s dress code ban, the business had six locations throughout the greater Seattle area. Since then, three have closed because of the dearth in customers that Hillbilly Hotties has attracted since making the news two summers ago.

“No, it is not illegal to patronize our bikini barista stands, but the city’s lawyer going on live T.V. would have you believe it is,” Edge said.

Surprisingly, none of their other locations ran into any issues with local city governments except for the one in Everett.

“No other city has been this religiously motivated or batshit crazy to pass such a foolish assault on women’s rights,” she added.

In court, the city justified the clothing ban as a necessary step in its ongoing duty to thwart prostitution or illegal sexual activity. Wearing so little clothing — a.k.a. showing too much “anal cleft” — could be sending the wrong message to customers, the city’s attorney, Ramsey Ramerman, argued.

So are bikini barista stands a launching pad for sex work? It’s debatable. Employees at Hillbilly Hotties have been arrested in the past, reportedly for lewd conduct and performing in public while either unclothed or exposing private parts. When this was brought up to Edge, she was quick to point out that despite the few arrest charges, no Hillbilly Hotties employee has ever actually been convicted of a crime related to lewd conduct. But she didn’t deny that the business has had a few brushes with the police.

“The city raided a [Hillbilly Hotties] stand illegally back in 2014 and made a big media spectacle [of it]. They tried to charge the girls. The judge threw the case out of court. I have an apology letter hanging in my office from the city over this incident. We informed the city [that] another stunt would result in a massive lawsuit not unlike what we have today.”

Allowing their employees to dress however they want is less a means of luring and baiting clientele as it is a chance to empower the bikini baristas and promote a healthy body image at work.

“Rather then hide what others might perceive as flaws, these baristas proudly display themselves,” Edge said, noting in particular employees who showed off scars from breast cancer and other illnesses.

She maintained that though the imagery of her “women-owned, women-run” beverage stand is titillating, the products she’s selling are far from that.

“Really, this is just a drive-through coffee shop,” she said. “We are not selling sex — we are selling coffee.”

 

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